“Unfortunately, there has… been a lot of inaccurate and careless information circulating about what our future partnership would mean for WhatsApp users’ data and privacy,” he wrote. “I’d like to set the record straight,” he added.
Koum said his upbringing taught him to deeply value the principle of private communication. The fear of snooping by the KGB was in part the reason his family moved to the United States, he added. “For me, this is very personal. I was born in Ukraine, and grew up in the USSR during the 1980s. One of my strongest memories from that time is a phrase I’d frequently hear when my mother was talking on the phone: “This is not a phone conversation; I’ll tell you in person.” The fact that we couldn’t speak freely without the fear that our communications would be monitored by KGB is in part why we moved to the United States when I was a teenager,” his blog post read.
Facebook's plan to buy WhatsApp had earlier sparked speculation that the move would open up the mobile-messaging startup’s pool of client data to surveillance by intelligence outfits. Koum on Tuesday sought to put to rest all such rumours.
“Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA, and we built WhatsApp around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible: You don’t have to give us your name and we don’t ask for your email address. We don’t know your birthday. We don’t know your home address. We don’t know where you work. We don’t know your likes, what you search for on the internet or collect your GPS location. None of that data has ever been collected and stored by WhatsApp, and we really have no plans to change that,” he wrote.
The Ukranian WhatsApp founder also took aim at those claiming the deal meant that his firm’s standards and behaviour would change after the deal with Facebook. “If partnering with Facebook meant that we had to change our values, we wouldn’t have done it… Our fundamental values and beliefs will not change. Our principles will not change. Everything that has made WhatsApp the leader in personal messaging will still be in place. Speculation to the contrary isn’t just baseless and unfounded, it’s irresponsible… Make no mistake: our future partnership with Facebook will not compromise the vision that brought us to this point.”
First Published: Mar 18, 2014 15:50 IST